18 September – Can Tho
Alarm was set for 6.45am, but as often happens, it wasn’t required. Awake at 6.30am; oh well, close enough.
Actually slept okay, and now, as I lay there, I await the usual signs from the past week to tell me I don’t feel that good.
Headache from last night is gone, and, while there is still a slight feeling of things not quite being totally right, I actually feel pretty good.
Well, certainly the best I’ve felt in the last week.
Could it possibly be???
Up to breakfast by 7.00am, and this morning it’s eggs on toast, along with fruit of orange, banana, and papaya.
Oh, and a caphe sua da.
It feels like it’s been so long since the last one, mainly because it has. Three days to be exact, and only the second one since we’ve been in Vietnam. Bit shocked, amazed and embarrassed at that, and not sure we’re doing it right at the moment.
Need to be better…..
Breakfast done, sufficiently full once again, and we quickly get organised for the day ahead. The car arrives just before 8.00am, and we; Thy, Andrea, Cammy and Lieu, a young girl who is now also working at Green Village; all pile in. We’re quickly on our way, after navigating the driveway, which is slightly narrower than the car. Oh well, the foliage will grow back, and I’m sure the scratches can be buffed out….
Soon out on the main roads, and apart from knowing that we’re heading to Soc Trang Province, I have absolutely no idea where we’re going.
That’s okay, that’s not my job, and I’m more than happy about that. Being able to sit back and take in the sights is far more enjoyable than concentrating on the traffic.
Usual sights of the Mekong, but they’re put on hold when we drive past a very large, and very new and shiny looking, brewery. Haven’t had a spiritual moment like that since we went past the SABECO brewery in HCMC in 2017.
We then went past a power plant, which while important, isn’t quite up there with a brewery.
Although you kind of can’t have one without the other….
Further spiritual moments lacking, we talk about the important stuff in life. Like why the rivers down here are the colour that they are.
And why Cammy didn’t know that they change colour, depending on the season.
Don’t tell anyone, but I’d never considered either of those things. And anyway, I’m still trying to get over the reverse flowing river thing in Phnom Penh.
Anyway, it was nice to deflect a little inadequate river knowledge, onto Cammy.
River lessons done, we then talked about fruit. It’s now, apparently, dragon fruit season. Which was good, as I’d already suspected that. The absolute mountains of them of them, every so often, being sold on the side of the road, kind of had me thinking that that was the case.
Not much gets past me….
We talked about other fruits, a lot of which we’d come across over the years, including ones that looked like they’d been wrapped in plastic while still hanging on the trees.
Having talked about them, as well as having eaten many of them, doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve been able to remember which one is called what, and what a particular one looks like.
We had a bit of a lesson on a few of them, but seeing as the vast majority I never really come across at home, I knew it would end up a bit like every Vietnamese language lesson I’ve ever had, with very little retained.
On we go, learning and forgetting stuff at a remarkable pace, and it doesn’t seem long before we’re off the main roads and out into the narrower ones of the countryside.
These narrower roads also have the occasional bridge over the many canals down here, and these bridges are even narrower than the actual roads. So narrow in fact, that they are only really as wide as a car.
Well, a car and a person, as we found out. But only if they are a small statured Vietnamese. And only if they are standing sideways as you go past….
Thy asks if we’d like to stop and see a pagoda on the way.
While I wasn’t filled with dread at the thought, I also wasn’t exactly brimming with excitement at the prospect.
I explain that I tend to have the ability, for want of a better word, to be able to visit one pagoda per day, and seeing as it’s still early, and as such a pagoda has yet to be seen, then yes, let’s go and make this one the one.
A few minutes later, we’re there. We pull up outside a very ornate, and colourful wall, and head in with Cammy and Lieu. There’s a bit going on, with young monks mixing mortar and working on one of the many structures. Apparently they are Khmer Buddhists.
We walk on a bit further, and then round the corner of a building.
And, well, there it is. I didn’t know what to expect to see, and seeing as it’s a pagoda, I hadn’t really bothered to think too much about what I might see.
First off, it was rather large. But it wasn’t the size that made it impressive. It was the colour and the detail of the whole thing.
Pagodas rarely, if ever, stop me in my tracks, but this one certainly did. And at that particular moment, for quite possibly the first time in my short Vietnam life, I was very pleased to have taken up Thy’s offer to stop to look at a pagoda.
But the problem I’m going to have now, is being able to find one more impressive than this.
Can’t wait to try…..
We stand there for a while just trying to take it all in, while also doing the selfie thing. There must have been a school nearby, as there were also heaps of young kids playing in the grounds. They were really interested in us being there, and it would have been nice to chat, but their shyness proved too much to come and talk to us.
We head back to the car, and just a few minutes further down the road, we arrive at Thy’s parents place.
It’s a really nice house, and it’s only a year or so old. Very modern, but with some traditional touches.
We meet her mum and dad, and then her sister, Huyen, and her husband. They’re all lovely, and all incredibly friendly, just as I suspected they’d be.
We sit down and have tea, along with some moon cake, which is extremely rich and filling. We also try another cake which has durian in it. While I’m appreciative of being given the opportunity to try the durian cake, I will be okay with things if I don’t get another opportunity.
Possibly, but I doubt I’ll ever find out.
Tea done, and durian taste slowly diminishing, we head off for a walk with Huyen, Cammy and Andrea.
There’s a few houses around; it’s quite rural; and it seems like a pretty quiet and relaxed type of place. It’s also very friendly, as we get lots of hellos from the locals. I like it.
We head back and sit outside for a while, before heading in for lunch. Which, knowing how the Vietnamese do food, well, more the amount of it, I’m quite nervous about.
And yep, sure enough, on a table that you can’t really see, there’s heaps of it.
A chicken, vegetable and noodle curry is the first dish, and it is beautiful. Cammy then shows us how to make spring rolls with beef cooked in vinegar, green banana, cucumber, lettuce, noodles, and various herbs, which is then supposed to be dipped in fish sauce. It’s nice with the fish sauce, but I also try dipping it in the curry, which, judging by the reaction to that little move, isn’t what’s supposed to be done.
It’s actually really nice, so Thy reluctantly tries it, too. She screws up her face a little at the flavour combination, but I think deep down she really liked it. I just don’t think she wanted to admit to how good it actually was, and how it had come down to some bloke from Australia to introduce them to a new way of eating spring rolls.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve started something, and it becomes a common dish down in the Mekong….
New dish discovered, and I’m starting to struggle with stomach room.
I try to pace myself, but with little success. I just don’t know how they do it.
A familiar face then appears at the door. It’s Thy’s husband Hiep, who has dropped in while on his lunch break. And like seeing everyone again yesterday, it’s great to meet up with him again.
With more than enough to eat, but fortunately still with the ability to walk, we head outside to relax and recover. Lisa has no issue with the relaxing bit, and is quickly snoozing in the hammock.
Relaxing done, and food no longer putting as much pressure on the waistband of my shorts, a friend of Thy’s dad turns up on his motorbike. Apparently we’re going for a ride into town, so I jump on the back of his bike, Lisa onto Thy’s dad’s, and Cammy and Lieu share another bike.
It’s not long before we’re in town, and our first stop is a pagoda. Hmmm, two in one day…..
It is very different from the one we saw this morning, but quite interesting all the same. But as I suspected, it’s going to be tough to find one as intricate and ornate.
As we head back to the bikes it starts to rain, so we find some shelter. It soon eases so we take a chance. Further into town and we end up at a market, but it appears to be shutting down, so we continue on. Unfortunately that rain then returns, so we begin heading back to the house. Even though it was only a short ride, as well as getting rather wet, it was a lot of fun. And it reminded me of how much I love seeing the sights of Vietnam from the back of a bike.
Back to the house to dry off, along with some more tea. But no more durian cake.
Getting ready to head back to Green Village, Lisa asks Cammy for some help with something she’d like to say to Thy’s mum in Vietnamese.
I’m not sure how well she did, but judging by the fact that Thy’s mum hugged her after it, she must have done okay.
Not willing to risk possibly insulting them, I decide that English is probably my best bet. Cammy must have done a good job at the translating, because I too received a hug.
As I said earlier, she really is a lovely lady, and her dad is just a great guy, and it was a real honour to be able to meet and spend time with them. I sort of expected today would be rather special, and it certainly lived up to that expectation.
Goodbyes, and photos, done, and we’re on our way around 3.00pm. Back down the road we walked along before lunch, and then over those many narrow bridges that cross the canals. Local life all around, including kids using polystyrene box lids as kickboards in the canals.
Noticing that, including the water level, I have one of those light bulb moments. The canals are actually tidal!
I’d never ever thought about that, and I feel a bit silly for not having done so.
The rain soon returns, and by the time we get back to Green Village, it’s actually coming down quite hard. Back to the room for a rest, but that doesn’t really happen. Seeing as it’s pretty much beer o’clock, the lure of a couple of beers on the balcony, while watching the rain, is too much.
Before long it’s time for dinner, so we get ourselves organised. Including getting our laundry sorted.
Dinner tonight is fish with rice and vegetables, as well as a chicken and melon soup. While the soup is nice, the fish is just beautiful. And of course, as is always the case, there is just so much food.
That being the case, as well as the fact that we’re having fish, I soon have a new best friend. Nana the cat enjoys the fish as much as I do, and she’s soon my constant companion.
She even jumped up and sat on my lap at one point, which Lisa found quite amusing, seeing as I’m much more a dog person, than a cat person.
Dinner finally finished, and since we’ve done very little else but eat today, Cammy appears with some fried banana chips done with ginger.
We sit and chat for a while, before heading back to the room for the usual, as well as some reflection on what we’d done today.
It had been a really good day, and one that, once again, confirmed how generous, kind and genuine the Vietnamese are.
It’s one of the reasons, if not the main reason, why I love returning to this country.
It gets to 10.00pm, and while we’ve done very little today, but at the same time seen and experienced so much, I’m absolutely stuffed. It’s time for bed.
But the good news is, it’s just tiredness, and apart from that, I actually feel pretty good.
Only needing to take paracetamol once today, makes me feel like this thing might be finally over.
Hopefully, fingers crossed, I feel just as confident about that in the morning…..